Monster Rancher 3 Preview

Monster Rancher 3 has been announced, and some screenshots from the upcoming breeding simulation are available. Here are our first impressions.

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Tecmo's Monster Rancher franchise is a pretty hot commodity. It has spawned offshoot projects such as a popular children's cartoon, an extensive line of toys and collectibles, and a number of games outside of the original breeding simulation, including the Battle Card series, the GameBoy Explorer title, and the relatively unknown yet addictive Hop-About puzzle game. However, the most impressive games were the breeding simulations, Monster Ranchers 1 and 2. Players were delighted with the innovative creature-generation system, where their personal CD collections were used to spawn a varied number of trainable monsters.

Tecmo has recently announced its highly anticipated next-generation sequel: Monster Rancher 3 for the PlayStation 2. With the PS2's DVD playback capabilities, Monster Rancher 3 will let you spawn monsters from your movies as well as from your music and game CDs. Many DVD movies will generate special monsters, so to reap the most benefits out of MR3, you should experiment with your media library.

We've taken a look at some screens and artwork from MR3, and we are pretty impressed. The artwork is some of the most attractive and original we've seen for any console game. Using the now popular cel-shading technique employed in Jet Grind Radio, MR3 is visually quite a departure from the previous 2D sprites and subsequent 3D models. The game looks more like a cartoon than ever and has more of an anime flair than the previous titles. Some of the monsters have detailed facial animations and look more alive than before. All the popular monsters are back, such as Mocchi, Tiger, Golem, Suezo, and Hare, and some new, off-the-wall creatures are making their debut. Many monsters have been given a new look, such as the Henger mechanical monster, which now appears in many different designs and shades. In addition to the new art style, monsters have something else that contributes to the revamped look: accessories. The accessories, which can range from sunglasses to sombreros, are modeled on the characters and affect their statistics.

Besides the stunning visual changes, some game mechanics have been altered in the upcoming sequel. Creatures now have a love meter that is visible during your training and ranching sequences and that serves as a gauge of your progress with your monster. Pitting your monsters against your opponents is done through a system similar to the systems in the previous games, where attack techniques learned through training are exchanged between the two monsters at a cost of stamina points. The battles now appear to feature special moves with nearly cinematic, over-the-top attacks that are sure to excite prospective monster breeders.

The story mode in Monster Rancher 3 will feature a new assistant who's younger and more involved with the monsters than Colt or Holly from the previous titles. Her name hasn't been revealed yet, but it seems that she will do more than just assist you with the mechanics of the game and the menus. The new ranching location appears to be outdoors, implying that in MR3, a lot of traveling to exotic locations will be key. You can be sure that competing in rancher tournaments will also be of importance.

So far no solid details have been announced concerning Monster Rancher 3's gameplay. The game is currently scheduled for a late 2001 release.

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